Come To God As A Brother

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Being the firstborn, I didn’t have a big brother, but I took being the big brother to my little sister very seriously! Like when young men would come to pick her up for a date, I would meet them on the front porch and say, “I hope you have a really nice evening. Just so you know, I will be home all evening waiting by the phone. You’d better pray that my little sister doesn’t have to call me!” Hopefully, that let my sister know I was ready to protect her whenever she may need it. 

 Whenever we go into any situation for the first time, there is always a natural fear of the unknown. What’s going to happen? How do I behave? What do I say? How will others treat me? How will I know who to trust? Or even, how will I know what to pray for? 

Those unknowns cause fear, and fear prevents intimacy. The Bible says, “There is no fear in love” (1 John 4:18). Where there is love, fear has to leave. But when there is fear, love is pushed aside. 

We learned that we can come to God in prayer as a Father—we can bring Him all our fears and concerns and problems—but did you know that we can also come to God in prayer as coming to a Brother? 

Jesus loves the fact that we can come to our Abba Father just as He did, which is why He taught us to begin our prayers with, “Our Father in heaven.” 

How wonderful it is to have a “big brother” to show us the ropes, to walk with us, to give us his counsel! One that says, “I’ve already been to that high school … I know that employer … I have experience with that kind of relationship … I’ve solved that problem … I’ve tasted that pain.…” That’s exactly what Jesus does for us. He is our perfect Big Brother! 

Jesus knows everything we will experience in life. There might be unknown things that we walk into, but they are never unknown to Him. And more importantly, they are never unexperienced by Him. Check out these assuring words from the Book of Hebrews—

Both the One who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. … For this reason He had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. (2:11, 17-18) 

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (4:15-16) 

Jesus has been there, done that, and has the scars to prove that He is victorious! 

  • We never have to be at a loss of what to say (John 12:49-50)
  • We never have to be at a loss of what path to take (John 14:6) 
  • We never have to be at a loss of what prayer to pray (John 16:23)

(Check out all of those verses by clicking here.) 

Charles Spurgeon said, “The Lord Jesus Christ is always ready to take the most imperfect prayer and perfect it for us. If our prayers had to go up to heaven as they are, they would never succeed; but they find a Friend on the way, and therefore they prosper.” 

Solomon wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take (Proverbs 3:5-6). 

Commenting on these verses in his book Proverbs: Amplified and Applied, Dick Brogden wrote:

“We tend to crave God’s explicit direction for the momentous choices of life—marriage, study, career, transition, promotion, change—but sail through a thousand daily choices independent of consultation with Him. Functionally, we act as if we only need God’s help for big things because we can handle the small things without Him. The error in this dichotomy of dependence (thinking we only need God’s help for big decisions) is twofold. First, big decisions are not divorced from small decisions; they are simply the crowning act, the summary of a legion of choices. Second, big decisions are not more important than small decisions. It is the small, simple, silent, serial choices of daily living that make one wise. When we acknowledge the Lord in all the minutia, our course is chosen and our path is set, and we do not stand bewildered at the critical crossroads of life.” 

Walking with Jesus as our Brother keeps us free from fear. His perfect love opens our hearts to have intimate conversation with our Heavenly Father. You can trust our Brother to help you with every single decision at every single moment. Let’s learn to lean on Him more! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series on prayer called Intimate Conversation, you can find all of the messages by clicking here. 

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Proverbs: Amplified And Applied (book review)

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I enjoy reading devotional books that are based on passages of Scripture, but I get quite frustrated when there is more devotional thought than there is Scripture. This is decidedly not the case in Dick Brogden’s devotional book Proverbs: Amplified And Applied.

Full disclosure: Dick Brogden is my cousin, so I may be just slightly biased on this book. But I don’t think my bias in any way contradicts my statement about the volume of Scripture contained in this powerfully insightful devotional work. 

Dick has taken the Book of Proverbs and gone deep on every single verse. Each note is a treasure trove of insights, cross-references to other biblical concepts, and action steps that can immediately become a prayer request or a daily goal. 

Let me give you an example. Provers 2:7 says, “He holds success in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless.” Dick’s amplification and application for this verse says—

“Wisdom is a supply and a defense. Wisdom gained now provides in the present and protects in the future. God in His benevolence stockpiles wisdom for us. He gives neither Spirit nor wisdom by measure. He delights to flood, saturate, fill, overwhelm, and lavish the spirit of wisdom, counsel, discernment, and understanding upon us. When we walk in the light, in integrity, it is as if we have a library card that allows us free checkout of heaven’s daily living manuals. Our integrity is what gives us access to all the stored-up wisdom of God. Integrity also shields us from the attacks of folly. The grandest folly comes wrapped in deceptive intelligence. The devil is able (cunning angel of light that he is) to make foolish things seem wise. We are able to see through his disguises and be shielded from his traps when we have a legacy of continually checking out, reading, and applying God’s insight. It is the familiarity with the feel of the true that helps us recognize the false.”

I’m reading through the Book of Proverbs very slowly this year, allowing Dick’s commentary to help me let these principles sink in deep. For those who love the wisdom of Proverbs, I would greatly encourage you to get a copy of Dick’s book for yourself. 

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Links & Quotes

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In my Halley’s Study Bible, I read this commentary on Matthew 24-25—

“It is best not to be too dogmatic about the events surrounding [Christ’s] second coming. But if language is a vehicle of thought at all, it certainly takes a good deal of explaining and interpreting to make anything else out of Jesus’ words than that He Himself looked forward to His coming again as a definite historical event in which He will personally and literally appear to gather to Himself and to eternal glory those who have been redeemed by His blood.

“And it is best not to cloud the hope of His coming with too detailed a theory as to what is going to happen when He comes. Some people may be disappointed if Jesus does not follow the schedule they have mapped out for Him.”

“The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.” —Ronald Reagan

“We are not called to punish the people for whom Jesus was already punished.” —Kevin Berry

Daniel B. Wallace, a New Testament professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, wrote, “If you could stack up all handwritten manuscripts of the New Testament—Greek, Syriac, Latin, Coptic, all languages—how tall would the stack be? … I have said in many lectures that it would be the equivalent of c. 4 & 1/2 Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other. How did I come up with that number?” Check out his post to read how he calculated this astounding number. This is just another link in the chain of evidence for the historicity of the Bible.

I shared this commentary on YouVersion this week: We are made in God’s likeness. Ever since sin entered the world, man’s sinful nature is to flip this around—to make God in our likeness. Literally to say, “This is what I want God to be. I want Him to approve what I want.”

“Pure humor is the most difficult of all of comedy. Late night humor is funny because it is mean. It is relatively easy to be crude, cynical, and sarcastic. It comes naturally to our fallen natures to criticize, tease, mock, and scoff. It’s much harder to make people laugh by lifting others up.” —Dick Brogden, in his book Proverbs: Amplified and Applied, commenting on Proverbs 1:22

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Beware Of Grumblers

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Beware Of Grumblers 

     None is so wise as the man who knows nothing. His ignorance is the mother of his impudence and the nurse of his obstinacy; and though he does not know a bee from a bull’s foot, he settles matters as if all wisdom were at his fingers’ ends—the pope himself is not more infallible. Hear him talk after he has been at a meeting and heard a sermon, and you will know how to pull a good man to pieces if you never knew it before. He sees faults where there are none; and if there be a few things amiss, he makes every mouse into an elephant. … 

     Those who know nothing are confident in everything; hence they are bullheaded beyond measure. Every clock and even the sundial must be set according to their watches. … Venture to argue with them, and their little pots boil over in quick style; ask them for a reason, and you might as well go to a sandpit for sugar. … 

     Faultfinding is dreadfully catching: One dog will set a whole kennel howling, and the wisest course is to keep out of the way of a man who has the complaint called the grumbles. … Dogs, however, always will bark; and what is worse, some of them will bite, too. But let decent people do all they can, if not to muzzle them, yet to prevent them from doing any great mischief.

From John Ploughman’s Talks of Plain Advice For Plain People

Charles Spurgeon—the prince of preachers—could also use a sarcastic tone to a great effect when it was needed! This whole book was supposed to be a sort of “shop talk” to the everyday working man. These are not flowery sermons, but straight-shooting for decent people. 

I have just completed a short series of messages on the distinct ways grateful people stand out from the crowd. But isn’t it just as true that those who constantly grumble about anything and everything also stand out from the crowd? 

Spurgeon was right that grumbling and faultfinding are dreadfully catching! King Solomon says that we waste our time trying to reason with such foolish people who believe themselves to be smarter than the rest of us. So Solomon’s advice is to simply leave them alone. 

Indeed, the best way to avoid catching the contagion of grumbling is to stay away from grumblers. If you have the misfortune of living with a grumbler or perhaps working next to a grumbler, the best way to “walk away” is to simply not engage in their faultfinding “barking.” Maybe you could even answer their complaint by pointing out something for which you are grateful. 

Let’s all make sure we’re not the grumbling, barking, growling dogs that Spurgeon identifies in this passage, and then let’s do all we can to keep the contagion of a grumbler contained. To paraphrase the apostle Paul, “Don’t be overcome by grumbling, but overcome grumbling by walking away or with gratitude” (Romans 12:21).

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How Should Leaders Handle Pushback?

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Leaders will always get some pushback from the people on their team. It doesn’t matter how much the people love their leader, when the leader shares a change or a correction, there will always be some people that are uncomfortable with that. 

And they will pushback. 

I’ve already shared some thoughts for leaders to make sure the issues they are addressing are biblical issues, not getting caught up in non-biblical controversies that can result in some very unbiblical attitudes! But when a leader is promoting a biblical change, there is a right way to handle it. 

Check out how I discussed this topic with some ministry interns—

I really do like going back to those two verses in Proverbs: 

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26:4-5)

Make sure you are not arguing just to argue. Good leaders only speak up for the good of the team and the individuals on the team. They never speak up just because they need to prove themselves right or they need to win an argument. 

If you would like to go a little deeper into this, you may want to check out a couple of other posts and videos I’ve shared:

Handling pushback the right way is going to be an important component of your leadership, so take some time to get it right the first time. If I can help coach you through a leadership challenge you are facing, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. 

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The Rewarding Exchange

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

In Romans 3:23 we read, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  What does it mean to “fall short” of God’s standard? John Piper describes it this way: “It means that none of us has trusted and treasured God the way we should. We have not been satisfied with His greatness and walked in His ways. We have sought our satisfaction in other things, and treated them as more valuable than God.” 

A couple of chapters earlier in Romans, Paul tells us about an exchange that people make. They exchange a relationship with the eternal God for things which they can grab immediately. Sadly, these immediate things are only temporal things that fall short of God’s awesome glory and leave us perpetually unsatisfied (Romans 1:21-25). 

We were created by God to crave. Craving is what gives us staying power and brings fulfillment. Think of it this way: Would you rather…

  • …go to a job that is mundane, boring, and only focused on making money OR go to a job that is fascinating, using our talents, and trying to make a difference in the world? 
  • …eat food that tastes like cardboard OR eat savory food? 
  • …serve a god that is temporary, fickle, and unreliable OR serve a God that is eternal, faithful, strong, and loving? 

Or think of it another way: Which of those jobs would you want to go to? Which job would call out your best effort? Which food would you want to eat? Which food would make you want to praise the chef? And which God would you want to spend eternity with? Which God would want to invite others to worship? 

God gives us cravings that can only be satisfied in Him. The devil perverts these cravings to get us to go for quick, easy, self-made pleasures. Just think about how he tempted Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-6). 

Both the Old Testament and New Testament tell us of the joys of eternal cravings being satisfied and the consequences of giving in to temporal cravings. For example: 

  • God gives a craving for future meat, but satisfies us with manna while we wait. The devil temps us to have our meat now (Deuteronomy 12:20; Psalm 106:12-14; Numbers 11:34). 
  • God gives a craving for satisfying relationships. The devil tempts us to indulge our passions now by grabbing the most alluring relationship (Proverbs 5:18-19; Deuteronomy 5:21; Romans 1:24, 26). 
  • God gives a craving for success and significance in His timeframe. The devil tempts us to get ahead now (1 Kings 11:37-38; Genesis 3:6). 

(Check out all of these passages by clicking here.)

It’s a terrible exchange when we give up the glorious eternal for the fading temporal! Romans 1 describes the results as sinful, degrading, shameful, unnatural. That’s because the things of earth are temporary; only God is eternal. 

For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh—craving for sensual gratification—and the lust of the eyes—greedy longings of the mind—and the pride of life—assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things—these do not come from the Father but are from the world itself. And the world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever. (1 John 2:16-17 AMP) 

We have to trust the One who gave us His unshakable promises—Be delighted with the Lord. Then He will give you all your heart’s desires (Psalm 37:4 TLB). Be delighted with Him and He will—not “may” or “hopefully He will” but He will—give you ALL your heart’s desires! 

There is an ultimate reward in Heaven but there are incredibly satisfying rewards along the journey to Heaven as well. Rewards like happiness, security, insight, and divine counsel from the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 4:8; Psalm 119:2, 10, 16, 18, 24).

If we will resist the temptation to satisfy our cravings by exchanging the eternal for the temporal, we will be rewarded with divine satisfaction here and rewards beyond imaging forever in God’s presence! 

If you’ve missed any of the message in our series called Craving, you can find all of them by clicking here. 

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Parents, Don’t Fret

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Near the beginning of my interview on the Leading From Alignment podcast with Jim Wiegand and John Opalewski, I was asked to share a bit of my personal background. 

I have been incredibly blessed to have grown up in a solid Christian home and in a fantastic Bible-believing church. And yet I still had to come to a point where I had to decide for myself whether I was going to put my faith in the claims of the Bible. Check this out…

Parents, God is faithful to His Word. If we as parents will teach the Scriptural truths to our children, the Holy Spirit will bring that back to their remembrance as our kids get older. We don’t have to fret about their spiritual standing, but we can stand on God’s promises. 

This doesn’t remove responsibility from us. I love the story of a woman named Monica who prayed for years and years for the salvation of her son. Even when it appeared he was running as hard as he could away from God, Monica continued to pray. Eventually, her son did put his faith in Jesus and went on to have an immeasurable impact on world and church history. Monica’s son is Augustine of Hippo. 

So Mom and Dad, make sure your kids hear God’s Word. Then make sure God hears your prayers for that Word to not return void. You don’t have to fret over your children when you remember that God loves them even more than you do! 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Aids Of Self-Judgment

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Aids Of Self-Judgment

My soul is consumed with longing for Your laws at all times. (Psalm 119:20) 

     Spiritual desires are the shadows of coming blessings. What God intends to give us, He first sets us longing for. Therefore, prayer is wonderfully effective because it is the embodiment of a longing that is inspired by God because He intends to bestow the blessing prayed for! What are your longings, then, my hearer? Do you long to be holy? The Lord will make you holy! Do you long to conquer sin? You will overcome it by faith in Jesus! Are you pining after fellowship with Christ? He will come and make His abode with you! Does your soul thirst, yes, even pant after God as the hart for the water brooks? Then you will be filled with all His fulness…. 

     I say not that it is so with all human wishes, for ‘the sluggard desires and has nothing’ [Proverbs 13:4] and many a man has such evil cravings within his heart that it were contrary to the purity of God for Him to grant them. But where there are intense, heartbreaking earnings of a holy order, depend upon it, they are tokens of good things to come! 

     Where the grace of God reigns in the soul, it makes a man become a stranger among his fellows…. Worldly men care nothing for the judgments of God. No, they care nothing for God Himself! But when a man becomes born anew, a citizen of heaven, there grows up within his spirit a spiritual appetite of which he had felt nothing before—and he longs after God and His Holy Word. See to it, brothers and sisters, whether your souls cry out for God, for the living God, for again I say, by your longings you may test yourselves—by your heart’s desires you may forecast the future—and by your hungering and thirsting you may judge whether you are men of this world or citizens of the world to come. With such aids to self-judgment, no man ought to remain in doubt as to his spiritual condition and eternal prospects.

From Holy Longings

I am currently teaching a series of lessons called Craving. We are learning in these sermons that God created our souls to long intensely, to have cravings. But we go astray when what we crave are things that will merely last during this world. 

John told us, “This world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever” (1 John 2:17 NLT). So by its very definition, worldly things will never satisfy our cravings because the world is temporary. Only an eternal God can give us eternal satisfaction. 

As Spurgeon teaches us here, examining our longings is the best aid of self-judgment and will help us determine our future. Craving God’s presence will bring God’s blessing and His eternal fulfillment of our cravings. Craving anything else will lead to frustration and eternal disappointment. 

God longs to bless us (Isaiah 30:18) as long as we are craving Him!

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The Best Laid Plans

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” 

This is a line from a poem written by Robert Burns in 1785 called To A Mouse. The story behind the poem is Burns had been plowing his field and destroyed a nest that a mouse had been working all day to build. His poem was written as an apology. The famous line from the Scottish poet actually is written like this—

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
     Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
     For promis’d joy!

That phrase “gang aft agley” means often go awry. 

Do you ever feel this way? Like your perfectly planned agenda got derailed before you even finished breakfast? Or that your To Do list never quite gets “To Done” by the end of the day?  

I had a great time on the Thriving In Ministry podcast with Kyle Willis while his podcast partner Dace Clifton was on sabbatical. We had planned to discuss how to help pastors get some rest so they could be at their optimal health, but our best laid plans definitely “gang aft agley”! We had multiple technical issues before we could even start recording, and then just as we talked about how pastors could find a way to rest, well, this happened…

Ah yes! Plans gone awry, indeed! 

But here is an important principle for all of us to remember. The Bible says this: We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps (Proverbs 16:9). That means the thing that I call “an interruption” may be something or someone God has sent my way. 

I used to really struggle with this, saying things like, “My plans never work out.” Until one day I heard the distinct voice of the Holy Spirit ask me, “Whose plans?” 

Right—I plan, but God directs. 

And He directly perfectly. 

So now I write the initials I.T.L.W. on the top of my well-crafted daily To Do list. That is shorthand for “If the Lord wills” which I took from this passage—

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15) 

Pastor, look at the life of Jesus. He often tried to get away for a time of rest, but people with needs showed up. His well-laid plans appeared to go awry. But He had compassion on them because He viewed them “like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36; Mark 6:34). Jesus then found time to sabbath later. 

Don’t view people with needs as an interruption or as something that derails your plans, but thank God for sending them your way. Then listen to the Holy Spirit showing you how and when you can get the rest you need to be energized to accomplish the rest of the items on your agenda.

I’ll be sharing more clips from this Thriving In Ministry interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple.

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Directed Steps

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Jesus was constantly cognizant of His mission. We see it at the beginning of His ministry and all the way through to the very end. At the beginning, He makes a decision where to live and base His ministry “to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah” (Matthew 4:12-16). At the end, He knows “that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled” He makes a final request (John 19:28). 

So “when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He withdrew to Galilee…and lived in Capernaum…in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali.” This residency fulfilled Isaiah’s prophetic word. 

Jesus knew He had to go to this region. The event of John’s imprisonment prompted His move to Capernaum. 

My sovereign God makes no mistakes; nothing is random nor inconsequential. I should develop the habit of praying, “Now that this has happened, what would You have me do?” I believe this is how Jesus lived. 

My life, just like Jesus’ life, has a purpose. Just as the Holy Spirit directed the movements of Jesus, He will direct my steps as well, if I will only listen for His voice.

I think we would be wise to form a daily prayer something along these lines—

Father, in my heart I may have planned a course for today, but I trust You to direct my steps. I will not stubbornly nor thoughtlessly lean on my own understanding, but at every moment I will listen for Your wise and perfect counsel. Jesus, just as You lived dependent on the Holy Spirit, I want to live this way as well. In Jesus’ name, Amen. (see Proverbs 16:9, 3:5-6; James 4:13-15) 

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